Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


A fractured future

This morning before leaving for my acupuncture appointment I had time to read the lead story in the Los Angeles Times: “No stopping climate shift, U.N. study says.” (As is typical for the Lost Angeles Times, the story isn’t findable on their website, so here’s a link to the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage.) A quick scan leaves one with this impression: No matter what we do, the glaciers will keep melting, oceans will rise, and everyone — everyone — will pay the price.

The information wasn’t news, but to me the tone was. Just again last week, Al Gore had assured me via DVD that things were fixable. Now all the scientists he is always quoting were making Al seem… naive.

latraffic.jpgThis topic was much on my mind as I left a meeting later that day in Santa Monica that was 22 miles from my office. I left the meeting at 3:20 and 70 minutes later had made only 3.7 miles of headway. (Mind you, I was driving — not walking. Walking would have been faster. Clearly.) Finally, having exhausted phone calls to friends, relatives, and strangers, and having triple-checked my email on my Treo, and having no further interest in being boxed in on all sides by other frustrated people, I pulled into the Westfield Century City mall to go see a movie. And of course the movie that was starting immediately was:

“Children of Men.”

In “Children of Men,” everything I’ve been seeing in the breakdown of our planet and our manmade infrastructure is evidenced in a dystopian future only 20 years from now. The scenes of urban combat look awfully familiar to anyone with a television set, as do the shots of “detainees” and rampaging young adults with guns, and the overall ick of sky and water. In “Children of Men,” pollution has choked the planet, and human infertility has become total. Where watching, say, “The Omega Man” could be entertaining because we had little sense that its future was around the corner waiting for us, “Children Of Men” is a bracing confrontation with a future that seems all too plausible.

childrenofmen.jpgI left the light entertainment of “Children of Men” glad for having seen it — glad in the way one is “glad” for having seen Picasso’s “Guernica” (which of course is visually referenced in the film, as is the cover of the Pink Floyd album “Animals,” for reasons that elude me). It was disturbing, surprising and gut-wrenching — precisely like sitting boxed in in L.A. traffic, but less so. I was happy to have made better use of my time. I rode the escalator down, got into my car, exited onto Santa Monica Boulevard —

— and found that traffic had not cleared one bit in the two hours I had been in the movie theatre. No matter which direction or what roadway, traffic was moving with all the speed of a snail on warm tar paper. At one point I called home and left a message saying that if I came across a motel with a lit vacancy sign, I was pulling over and checking in. Eighty minutes later, I finally got to my office. Total travel time: 2 hours 30 minutes to go 22 miles.

I’m not exaggerating.

I know the region had a major traffic and construction accident on the 405, but this is indicative of a pattern that is only going to get worse. Greater Los Angeles is on its way to becoming a city of isolated city-states (if it isn’t already) much like Italy through most of its history. Downtown will have nothing to do with Santa Monica.

But then, I’m not sure what Santa Monica, which is on the coast, will be like. Gore predicts that over the next 44 years the oceans will rise 10 feet, which will turn our Burbank home into very valuable beachfront property. The U.N. report says 7 to 23 inches within 93 years.

childre_men_ba6.jpgWhatever happens, it’s clear that we’re entering a period where great fissures are forming in our civilization. Robert Kaplan wrote about this in 2000 in his book The Coming Anarchy, and I remember thinking when I read it that it seemed the most prescient book I’d read since Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave. Toffler wrote about our shift out of the industrial revolution and how painful that was going to be; I wonder if he knew how quickly that shift would happen? Now every day I see signs of a fourth wave, a wave of collapse or retreat. If new technology is riding to the rescue, as the quote unquote president and some others believe, I hope it arrives quickly. Because in the meantime, there is often simply no way to get anywhere, and that seemingly little problem is indicative of many many larger problems.

6 Responses to “A fractured future”

  1. leewochner.com » Blog Archive » It wasn’t just about the accident Says:

    […] leewochner.com Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things. « A fractured future […]

  2. Paul Crist Says:

    And what is the Bush administrations reaction to the latest report? The Eneregy Secretary is worried that any mandatory reductions in greenhouse gasses will cost jobs.

    Do the fools realize that the rising water level will wipe out most of the big east coast cities, including the small town where my house sits on a barrier island. The gulf coast will also be gone. And the fools worry about jobs and still do nothing.


  3. Isabel Storey Says:

    I was caught in that same traffic snarl and ended up going back home instead of to the intended destination. I also saw CHILDREN OF MEN in the past week. I agree with you on this one – a strange future is arriving all too quickly.

    I read COLLAPSE by Jared Diamond and was struck by how rapidly a society could collapse, once the events were set in motion. The most common contributing factors are environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbors, decreased support of friendly neighbors and the society’s own response to its problems. Hm…some of these sound familiar.

    I do believe there’s reason for hope. We have awareness of these kinds of historical facts, and there is global (rather than just local) awareness these days. They say you should learn from history in order not to repeat it. Maybe we should consider learning from history just so that we can have another history to live.

  4. leewochner.com » Blog Archive » “Lost” interest Says:

    […] I’m still watching the show because it’s become a ritual for my eight-year-old daughter and me to watch it together and I can’t bring myself to tell her that much as I like her, I don’t like the show any more. (As with Jack, Kate, Sawyer and the rest, I too am trapped on “Lost” island.) This week’s episode — the return from a three-month hiatus — clarified my disenchantment. We get a lot of back story on Jack’s blonde captor, Juliet, which is absolutely uninteresting because I don’t care about Juliet. Indeed, the show has trained me not to care about recently introduced characters. Just as soon as Michelle Rodriguez’s character of Ana Lucia, a gun-toting, smart-mouthed, emotionally battered former member of the LAPD, had breathed gasoline into the show’s carburetor, she was shot to death. Another character torn between the good and bad, Mr. Eko, was similarly dispatched. At one time, the love story of Rose and Bernard was seemingly so important that an entire episode had to be devoted to it, but I haven’t seen or heard from them in months and months. So why care about Elizabeth? Because the unshocking revelation is that she too is a prisoner on this island and has been for three and a half years? You could say the same thing about driving to Burbank from Santa Monica. No, the most interesting aspects of Juliet’s flashbacks was seeing “Deadwood” actress Robin Weigert sans her Calamity Jane accent. […]

  5. Isabel Storey Says:

    What I meant to say in that last post was:

    They say you should learn from history in order not to repeat it. In this case, we should consider learning from the past or we may not have a history to repeat.

    Or something like that…

  6. leewochner.com » Blog Archive » Drivetime for Hitler Says:

    […] Blog « Forever young […]

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